Many of us struggle with digestive issues, including gas, bloating, constipation, and other unpleasant stomach woes. These problems can be uncomfortable and downright disruptive to our everyday lives. But the good news is that there are many delicious foods that help digestion.
Probiotic-rich, fermented foods can help restore healthy gut flora, thereby improving digestion among other health benefits. They contain enzymes that break food down into smaller, more digestible pieces, allowing your body to absorb more nutrients. They can also help to neutralize anti-nutrients that interfere with digestion, such as phytic acid.1
Foods that are high in fiber add diversity to the gut microbiota, an important factor in digestive health.2 They also help to move food through the digestive system more efficiently, lessening constipation, and helping to keep you regular.3
Many foods that help digestion have unique nutritional and healing qualities. Simply adding them to your diet can provide many benefits. Let’s discover some of the specific foods that can alleviate tummy troubles and improve your digestive health.
10 Delicious Foods That Help Digestion
Apples are a fruit high in pectin, which is a type of soluble fiber better known for its ability to gel jams and jellies. This source of fiber is good for regulating bowel health, reducing inflammation, and lowering the chance of infections in the gastrointestinal tract.4
Real, delicious bone broth is a source of glutamine, an amino acid that is an important part of intestinal barrier function. Glutamine can help intestinal growth. It can also help the intestinal barrier to function more optimally, reducing the chance of injury and infection under stress.5
Ginger, a root often used in cooking and natural remedies, is one of the more commonly recognized foods that help digestion. It has been shown to help stimulate gastric emptying or emptying of the stomach.6 It is also frequently used to alleviate nausea, particularly as it relates to motion sickness, pregnancy, and side effects of chemotherapy.7
Kefir, a fermented milk beverage, has been shown to improve the symptoms of lactose intolerance.8 Research also suggests that kefir can positively affect the microbiome and gut health,9 reduce inflammation, and improve many other aspects of human health.10
Kimchi is a traditional Korean side dish consisting of several fermented vegetables and sometimes seafood. It is a probiotic and fiber rich food that can better your digestive and bowel health.
Kombucha is a fermented sweet tea that is packed with friendly bacteria and yeasts that are beneficial to the gastrointestinal tract.11 What’s more, research has shown that kombucha can help heal ulcers in mice,12 suggesting that it may be of some benefit to humans in this area.
Leafy Green Vegetables
Leafy dark green vegetables, such as spinach, collard greens, and kale are good sources of dietary fiber13 and magnesium. Both of these factors can help to lessen constipation.14 Dietary fiber can help you have bowel movements more often,15 and magnesium can serve as an effective laxative.16
Peppermint is another food that helps digestion, often recognized as a common home remedy for upset tummies and nausea. One study showed that peppermint oil has the potential to quickly relieve symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.17
Sauerkraut, or “sour cabbage” is a food fermented by lactic acid. It’s full of enzymes that help to break your food down into more easily digestible pieces. The fermentation process can remove antinutrients that often interfere with digestion.18 Sauerkraut may also offer some relief to those who suffer from inflammatory bowel diseases.19
Yogurt, a fermented milk product, is another of the many foods that help digestion. Like other fermented foods, it’s full of probiotics that can play an important role in digestion and overall gut health.20 Yogurt, in particular, has been shown to ease diarrhea, either from illness or from antibiotics. It also has a positive effect on lactose intolerance.21
These are just a few foods that help digestion. There is a wide array of fermented foods, whole grains, and healthy fruits and vegetables that have beneficial qualities for your tummy. If you want to regulate your digestive health, try adding one of these delicious foods to your diet on a regular basis.
- Swain, Manas Ranjan, et al. “Fermented Fruits and Vegetables of Asia: a Potential Source of Probiotics.” Biotechnology Research International, Hindawi Publishing Corporation, 2014, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4058509/.
- Holscher, Hannah D. “Dietary Fiber and Prebiotics and the Gastrointestinal Microbiota.” Gut Microbes, Taylor & Francis, 4 Mar. 2017, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5390821/.
- Yang, Jing, et al. “Effect of Dietary Fiber on Constipation: a Meta Analysis.” World Journal of Gastroenterology, Baishideng Publishing Group Co., Limited, 28 Dec. 2012, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3544045/.
- Wikier, A., et al. “[Health-Promoting Properties of Pectin].” Postepy Higieny i Medycyny Doswiadczalnej (Online), U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2014, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24864109/.
- Wang, B, et al. “Glutamine and Intestinal Barrier Function.” Amino Acids, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Oct. 2015, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24965526/.
- Hu, Ming-Luen, et al. “Effect of Ginger on Gastric Motility and Symptoms of Functional Dyspepsia.” World Journal of Gastroenterology, Baishideng Publishing Group Co., Limited, 7 Jan. 2011, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3016669/.
- Ernst , E, and M H Pittler. “Efficacy of Ginger for Nausea and Vomiting: a Systematic Review of Randomized Clinical Trials.” British Journal of Anaesthesia, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Mar. 2000, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10793599/.
- Hertzler , SR, and Shannon Clancy. “Kefir Improves Lactose Digestion and Tolerance in Adults with Lactose Maldigestion.” Journal of the American Dietetic Association, U.S. National Library of Medicine, May 2003, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12728216/.
- Bourrie, Benjamin C T, et al. “The Microbiota and Health Promoting Characteristics of the Fermented Beverage Kefir.” Frontiers in Microbiology, Frontiers Media S.A., 4 May 2016, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4854945/.
- de Oliveira Leite, Analy Machado, et al. “Microbiological, Technological and Therapeutic Properties of Kefir: a Natural Probiotic Beverage.” Brazilian Journal of Microbiology : [Publication of the Brazilian Society for Microbiology], Brazilian Society of Microbiology, 30 Oct. 2013, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3833126/.
- Marsh , Alan, et al. “Sequence-Based Analysis of the Bacterial and Fungal Compositions of Multiple Kombucha (Tea Fungus) Samples.” Food Microbiology, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 25 Sept. 2013, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24290641/.
- Banerjee , D, et al. “Comparative Healing Property of Kombucha Tea and Black Tea against Indomethacin-Induced Gastric Ulceration in Mice: Possible Mechanism of Action.” Food & Function, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1 Dec. 2010, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21776478/.
Abigail is a homesteader, homeschooler, and music-maker. She lives with her husband and three children on her acre-and a half homestead in scenic Pennsylvania. You can visit her blog about living the homegrown life (and seeking contentment while doing it) at They’re Not Our Goats.